Tuesday, 14 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Holy Scriptures and the Gospel about the nature of the Law of God, and how we ought to keep it in faith, and how important it is to understand what the Law is all about, and how to best apply it in our lives. It also highlighted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who kept a superficial vigil and observance over the Law, but not understanding the true intent and meaning of the Law.

As is with any forms of laws, the Law of God is often bound to be misinterpreted and misused, especially when its meaning and purpose are not fully understood by those who enforce these laws. It is imperative that the people of God understand what the Law is all about, that is about love, and not just any forms of love, but the love which comes from the source of all love itself, that is God.

The Law is meant as the symbol and representation of love of God for us mankind, by giving us this set of guidance and pointers to help us to orientate ourselves in this world filled with temptations, darkness, evils, and impurities. The ultimate aim of the Law is indeed ultimately to keep us in God’s grace, and to bring us back to His love all of us who have sinned and walked away from Him.

But when those who were tasked to safeguard and apply the Law erred in their judgments and refused to listen to what the Lord had to say about them, then the Law lost its purpose, and ended up becoming a chore and a tedious thing for the people of God to maintain and keep. As a result, that was why Jesus criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were obsessed with the external applications of the Law rather than the holistic applications of the Law.

Being too engrossed in the external and superficial application of the Law is dangerous, as this ended up in the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law adopting an excessively strict and burdensome interpretation of the Law, which brought a great burden on the people of God, and sadly that this is done not in the spirit of true understanding of the purpose of the Law, ending in the observance of the Law just for the sake of observing it, which will bring no benefit but instead condemnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today we are all urged to turn deep into the Law of God, all the rules and observances which we have known in the Church, and begin to appreciate them in complete fullness and find the true meaning and purpose of the Law, that is the love of God for us, and His great desire to reunite us with Himself, so that we may be free from sin and unworthiness, and gain the eternal inheritance He had planned for us.

Today we celebrate together as the Church, the feast of Pope St. Callistus I, also known as Pope St. Callixtus I, the leader of the early Church and a martyr of the faith under the persecution of the Roman authorities at the time. Pope St. Callistus I was once a slave, who managed to escape his slavery and eventually became a servant of the Lord and His Church. He suffered many times for his Christian faith, and he was sent to many punishments by the authorities for that.

Nevertheless, eventually when Pope St. Callistus I was chosen as the Bishop of Rome and the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, and as the Vicar of Christ, he extended a new outreached hand towards those sinners and those who had erred in their path, committing adultery and fornication, allowing them to return to the Church to seek God’s mercy.

There were indeed serious oppositions to this policy, and some including the Saint Hippolytus were firmly opposed to the policies of Pope St. Callistus I who was seen as being too lenient against the sinners. St. Hippolytus was thus elected as a rival Bishop of Rome and Pope, in opposition to Pope St. Callistus I. But despite the differences and the rivalry between them, God continued to exercise His good intentions upon the world through them, as they continued to minister to the people of God in faith. Eventually both of them would also meet their end in martrydom, in the defense of their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the saints and the messages from the Holy Scriptures which we heard today, all call for us to reassess our own lives as well as our own actions and deeds. We have to remember that first, God is loving and merciful, and through the Law and rules which He had given us, He wants to bring us back to Him and be renewed in love, so that our sins may be cleansed, and we renewed and purified, may find justification and salvation in God.

However, at the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye on our sins and defects indeed. We cannot ignore them or to bypass them in our attempts to seek the Lord and find His mercy. For God hates and rejects sin and evil just as much as He loves and be merciful to all of us. Welcoming sinners is indeed important, and we should make it a priority to help sinners to come back to the Lord through Faith. However, this cannot be done at the expense of condoning sin or to reduce our contempt of sin.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, from today onwards, if we have not done so before, let us all help one another so that we may remind ourselves of the sins we have committed, that we may repent from them and find our way to the Lord, seeking His mercy and forgiveness. Let us also from now on seek to understand the true meaning, purpose and intention of the Law of God, so that by obeying the Law in all its full meaning, we may gain the favour and the blessings of the Lord.

May Almighty God guide us always in life, and help us so that we may become ever better disciples and followers, rooted in love and abundant in charity and faith. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 37-41

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked Him to have a meal with him. So He went and sat at table. The Pharisee then wondered why Jesus did not first wash His hands before dinner.

But the Lord said to him, “So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil. Fools! He who made the outside, also made the inside. But according to you, by the mere giving of alms everything is made clean.”

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 118 : 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48

Give me Your unfailing love, o Lord, Your salvation as You have promised.

Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for I would also lose my hope in Your word.

May I always keep Your word forever and ever.

I shall walk in freedom, having sought out Your laws.

For I delight in Your word, which I fear.

I will lift up my hands to You, and meditate on Your commandments.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Galatians 5 : 1-6

Christ freed us to make us really free. So remain firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. I, Paul, say this to you : If you receive circumcision, Christ can no longer help you.

Once more I say to whoever receives circumcision : you are now bound to keep the whole Law. All you who pretend to become righteous through the observance of the Law have separated yourselves from Christ and have fallen away from grace.

As for us, through the Spirit and faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. In Christ Jesus it is irrelevant whether we be circumcised or not; what matters is faith working through love.

Monday, 13 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scriptures made a reference to the two sons of Abraham, who was each born of a different mother. Ishmael, the elder son, was born from the union between Abraham and her slave, Hagar, at the insistence of Sarah, his wife, who insisted to Abraham to bear a son with Hagar the slave, who will then legally be known as her own son.

It was common in the past, and even still until today, that a surrogate mother, usually a slave, to produce an heir to a wealthy and influential person, and whose heir will be adopted by the wife of the person, when the wife is unable to bear a child on her own. But in the case of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar the slave, Sarah was taking a shortcut to her problem of not being able to bear a child. God had promised Abraham that He would give him a son through Sarah, for it is nothing impossible for God, even for someone to bear a child at old age.

The younger son, Isaac, born from Abraham and Sarah was the child promised by God, and the blessings which God had given to Abraham in His covenant, was passed on to Isaac and his descendants. Meanwhile, Ishmael, while still blessed by Abraham, he had no part in his inheritance, and both him and his mother Hagar the slave was sent away by Abraham from his house.

The idea here is to separate two occasions in our own lives, the children of God, the children of our father in faith, that is Abraham, the faithful servant of God. The elder son, Ishmael, born of Hagar the slave represented our old lives, the lives of slavery, when we are enslaved by the power of sin and Satan’s works, that we are chained to this world and all of its darkness.

If we think that we are not chained or enslaved, then think about this, how our ancestors were cast out of Eden, the gardens of God filled with all wonderful things and perfections, because they disobeyed the Lord and preferred to follow Satan and their own desires than to listen to God, who had told them and taught them what they need to follow and obey, as well as what they need to avoid.

God did not create us to enslave us, or to make us like His slaves. Rather, we were created in love, for love and for our own good. God who is perfect and complete in everything truly had no need for anyone or anything to satisfy Him, and He did not need anything to be happy or to be joyful, as He is perfect and self-sufficient in everything, in love and joy.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, He created all things, and last and greatest of all, mankind, so that He may share that love He has with all of us. And we were created in perfection, meant to enjoy all the things God had created. He even entrusted all creations on earth to us, that we were meant to be the stewards of all creations, to live our lives in bliss, joy and perfect harmony with God.

But alas, we choose our lot with the evil one, who tempted us, and by accepting his temptations and lies, from our ancestors on, until the coming of the Saviour, all mankind had been enslaved, that is enslaved and chained by sin, the sins of our actions which corrupted us and brought us away from the promise of eternal life and happiness which God freely gave us and intended for us.

And that brought us under the slavery of our sins, that we are no longer free but bound under the consequences of sin, which ultimately is death. Death is the punishment and consequence of disobedience, and that is why mankind suffered from death, which was once without hope, and we feared death. But all was not lost, for God gave His help to us all, through Jesus Christ His Son, who is our Lord and Saviour.

That through Christ, we may be made anew, and transformed from the child of the first generation, represented by Ishmael, the son of the slave woman, to be like the other child, that is Isaac, the son promised by God to Abraham, the son of the free woman, and hence is free. This represents how we mankind had been made free, and through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, this was made true by God.

But this freedom is given only to those who want to believe in Christ, and not to those who continue to stubbornly refuse His offers of freedom. Yes, there are many indeed today who continues to refuse to follow the Lord and listen to Him, and they prefer to continue to live under the slavery of sin, and keep their chains of sin, which continue to chain them to death and destruction.

This was exactly the same kind of attitude which Jesus encountered as He taught the people, who were stubborn and persistent in their rebelliousness. They doubted Jesus, even after seeing what He had done, and asking for even more signs and miracles. They were not able to look beyond the veil of their doubt and unfaithfulness, and instead, they languished in sin, refusing to see the light until the day when the judgment comes upon them.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as today we also celebrate the anniversary of the last of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, let us all look at the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, and chief of all, that of our Lady of Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And let us look at the examples of Abraham our father in faith, and finally the examples and the actions of our Lord Jesus Himself.

All of them followed the Lord, obeyed the Lord and listened to His will, as contrasted to Adam and Eve, our ancestors, and the people whom Jesus confronted in the Gospel today. We have a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ. We can choose to follow the Lord and obey all of His commands and will, and walk righteously in His path, or to choose to instead listen to Satan and his lies, and obey our own whim and our own desires. It is up to us to make a difference in our own lives.

Thus, do we all want to choose life or death? Do we all want to be free from sin and its slavery, or do we want to remain bound to sin and be enslaved? Thus, let us all take conscious actions, to show that we want to be indeed free from all forms of the bondage of sin, and rebuke Satan who had enslaved us with them. Let us say courageously to him, that we do not want to have any more part in this slavery of our body and soul, but rather that we may be free in the Lord.

May Almighty God be with us, guide us and bring us into the freedom from our slavery, the slavery of our body and soul to sin, so that we may truly be righteous and just, and be found worthy of His grace and inheritance. God bless us all. Amen.